Poughkeepsie Police Couldn’t Find Wanted Gun Fugitive For Weeks Before Hotel Killing

Poughkeepsie Police Couldn’t Find Wanted Gun Fugitive For Weeks Before Hotel Killing

Police for the city of Poughkeepsie said Wednesday that while they were aware the alleged gunman who killed a father in a seemingly random hotel lobby shooting had been a fugitive of the law, they couldn’t arrest him for one simple reason: They couldn’t find him.

The City of Poughkeepsie’s police department said in a statement that the department knew Roy Johnson was a fugitive on gun and drug charges in Georgia, and was aware there was a warrant out for his arrest, but could not locate him.

The city’s police department, which said they were also looking for him in regards to the Aug. 9 murder of Darren Villani in the Poughkeepsie area, said they were unable to find him because he did not have a permanent address. At the time, sources had told the city’s police department that Johnson had been hiding from police by staying at hotels in New York and other states.

The suspected killer at a hotel in Poughkeepsie was already being investigated for other crimes before his participation in this week’s incident. Jonathan Dienst reports.NBC New York’s Jonathan Dienst reports.

The department added that it had no knowledge of Johnson’s whereabouts before the deadly shooting at the Poughkeepsie Marriot Courtyard on Oct. 2.

Johnson had been labeled a criminal fugitive over the summer by the sheriff’s office in Fulton County, Georgia, after he allegedly skipped court after his arrest on felony gun and cocaine dealing charges. The sheriff’s office said a warrant for his arrest was put into a national database in July.

Weeks later, he was also a key suspect in the August murder case. Johnson was being investigated in the Poughkeepsie city area as a key suspect in connection with the gang-related murder, law enforcement sources told NBC New York. Several law enforcement sources said that while police investigators wanted to make an arrest, they said the district attorney and others wanted to wait for DNA and fingerprint evidence to come back.

The Town of Poughkeepsie (the City of Poughkeepsie and Town of Poughkeepsie are separate entities and jurisdictions) told NBC New York that the police department was not aware of the warrant until after Johnson’s arrest on Sunday, and that they did not have any open homicide or robbery investigations with Johnson or Devin Taylor, who was also arrested in the hotel shooting.

“According to Johnson’s criminal history, he does currently have an active extraditable warrant out of Fulton County Georgia. This department was unaware of the warrant for Johnson until his arrest on Sunday. The last date of contact for our department with Johnson was in 2019, prior to the issuance of the warrant,” said Town of Poughkeepsie Police Lt. Jason Burger. “This department currently does not have any open homicide or robbery investigations with Johnson or Taylor identified as suspects.”

The Dutchess County district attorney’s office said later on Wednesday that they, too, were aware of the Georgia warrant ever since the investigation into the August homicide began, just as the city’s police department was.

Meanwhile, Johnson remained free on the street for months. During the August murder investigation, it seemed at no time did police or prosecutors act on the warrant that had been issued out of Georgia. It was not clear why, however.

“There may absolutely be a good reason why the arrest wasn’t made, but as a result of not effecting that arrest, there was a loss of life,” said Wilbur Chapman, the former NYPD chief of patrol. “So there has to be an explanation as to why the arrest was not effected.”

Johnson was charged with murder for Sunday’s shooting, which killed Long Island accountant Paul Kutz. Both Johnson and the man he was sharing a hotel room with, Devin Taylor, face weapons charges as well.

No further details on the gang-related murder were immediately available, but officials said each suspect had at least one prior felony conviction. Law enforcement sources said that Taylor was also suspected of taking part in the previous homicide, but again the sources said that the DA wanted more evidence given the state’s reformed discovery laws.

The district attorney’s office in Georgia told NBC New York that if police in New York knew where Johnson was over the summer, they would have wanted him arrested and sent back there to face the guns and drugs charges.

A senior law enforcement official previously said the suspected shooter had a Glock switch on his handgun that made it fully automatic. That gun, which took the life of an innocent bystander, sources said, is believed to have been found on the roof of his car, and a second weapon — an apparent ghost rifle — was discovered in the room both men shared.

Investigators said that the handgun used in the shooting had a clip of 30 bullets, which was empty when it was recovered in the parking lot. It is believed that more than two dozen shots were fired inside and outside the hotel.

Glock switches are illegal and essentially turn semi-automatic pistols into fully functioning automatics that federal law classifies as machine guns. The suspected shooter also had a 30-round high-capacity magazine in his possession, the official said.

A search warrant was being executed overnight and was expected to cover their vehicle, in which investigators believed there may have been Tannerite, which is used in long-range target practice and explodes upon impact, according to the senior law enforcement official.

It’s not clear why Tannerite may have been in the vehicle, or what the pair may have had to do with another firearm, flashbangs and materials “used to make explosives” that the official said had been found in their hotel room.

According to the investigation, led by state and Poughkeepsie police along with the county sheriff and the district attorney’s office, the shooter had gone down to the hotel lobby to get coffee Sunday. He took out the gun and fired, killing the victim in what the chief has called “a random act.”

The town’s police department said Wednesday that there was no indication that any argument had occurred between Johnson and anyone in the lobby before he started firing, and said that the shooting “appears to have been unprovoked.”

The senior law enforcement official had said Johnson and Taylor were in a hotel room smoking a PCP-like substance prior. Johnson was remanded without bail and Taylor was remanded on $1,000,000 bond. The pair, who police said did not appear to have a permanent address, are next scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

It’s unclear who paid for the men’s room at the Courtyard by Marriott. In a statement, the Dutchess County Department of Community & Family Services said the suspects were not part of any shelter program, nor were they placed in the hotel by the county.

Kutz, of East Northport, was staying in the hotel while visiting his son, a student at Marist College. Law enforcement previously said that dozens of Marist families were at the hotel Sunday when gunfire erupted and SWAT teams descended on the building.

The two men taken into custody for the shooting at a hotel in Poughkeepsie are also being investigated as suspects for a previous robbery and murder, Jessica Cunnington reports.

The chaos unfolded over the course of a number of hours at the Marriott on South Road, with officers first responding to the scene at 7:30 a.m. for reports of a shooting and the discovery in the hotel room coming later in the investigation.

Manuals related to making explosive devices were also found in the room, Police Chief Joseph Cavaliere said.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting police and the district attorney’s office in the investigation. State Police responded as well, though authorities stressed there was no active threat to the public.

The shooting happened in the middle of Marist’s “Family Weekend,” where students and families were invited to participate in three days of activities, including a football game, tailgating and picnic on the waterfront.

Marist College acknowledged the tragedy in an email to students Sunday.

“This morning, authorities made us aware of the tragic, fatal shooting of a family member of a Marist student at a local hotel several miles from campus,” the college wrote. “Our deepest condolences go out to the family, and we are offering the full support of the Marist community.”

An investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

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